To avoid repeating EHR missteps, involve physicians in artificial intelligence projects from the start

robot on computer
It's going to take a partnership between human intelligence and artificial intelligence in healthcare. (PhonlamaiPhoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

It’s time to bring two separate cultures—technology and physicians—together as artificial intelligence takes hold in healthcare, according to three Stanford University researchers.

Healthcare should take a lesson from electronic health records development, which when done with little input from doctors can be rife with unintended consequences that contribute to physician burnout, wroe Abraham Verghese, M.D., Nigam H. Shah, Ph.D., and Robert A. Harrington, M.D., of Stanford’s School of Medicine, in a JAMA opinion piece.

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“The lessons learned with the EMR should serve as a guide as artificial intelligence and machine learning are developed to help process and creatively use the vast amounts of data being generated in the healthcare system,” the researchers wrote.

While computers may be able to predict certain outcomes with higher accuracy, it’s going to take doctors and other clinicians to interpret computerized data and actually decide on action, they said.

For example, clinicians are biased toward an optimistic prediction when it comes to patients, often overestimating life expectancy, while predictive models using vast amount of data can do better. A black-box model can lead physicians to make good decisions, but human intelligence must come into play, bringing in societal, clinical and personal context, they argue.

Artificial intelligence has the promise to free clinicians from some mundane tasks and bring back meaning and purpose in the practice of medicine. But physicians must guide, oversee and monitor its adoption, they said.

While automation might make some physicians nervous, artificial intelligence is likely change the way medicine is practiced and ultimately free up doctors to spend more time with their patients.